Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

spinal cord injury surgeon

Every spinal cord injury is different, and there are many different treatment options.

A patient's recovery and type of treatment depends on where the spinal cord injury occurred.

Immediate Treatment

When a person is in a car accident, slip-and-fall accident, or another type of accident that injures the spinal cord, it's incredibly important to prevent further injury to the spine or spinal cord. Most spinal cord injuries don't involve a completely severed spinal cord, so physicians focus on saving the axons (nerve cells) that are undamaged. The more healthy axons, the less severe the injury.

People who suffered a neck injury, a head injury, pelvic fracture, penetrating injuries around the spine, or falls are usually transported on a backboard with a rigid collar to prevent any movement of the spine.

Realignment of the Spine

The trauma team (group of doctors, specialists, nurses, and other medical professionals) will focus on realigning the spine as soon as possible to stabilize the spine and prevent further damage or paralysis. They typically use a rigid brace or a process called axial traction.

Respiratory Problems

Some spinal cord injury victims will have problems breathing – especially those who injured their spinal cord close to the neck area. Doctors and nurses will likely insert a breathing tube through the nose or throat and into the airway to help the patient breathe.

Steroid Drugs

A steroid drug called methylprednisolone is commonly used during the first 8 hours after a person suffers a spinal cord injury. The drug helps to reduce damage to nerve cells and reduces inflammation (swelling) near the injured area.

Expected Recovery

Physicians typically wait a few days after a spinal cord injury to do a complete neurological examination and predict the likelihood of recovery. This waiting period can be very frustrating for victims' family members, but it gives the patient's body a chance to react to the injury and provides a clearer picture of the severity of the injury.

Physicians use a variety of tests to diagnose the severity of the spinal cord injury, but the ASIA Impairment Scale is the standard diagnostic tool. A classification of "A" means there is no feeling or movement below the level of injury. In other words, the injury is "complete." Classifications of "B" through "D" decrease in severity, and "E" means that the patient has normal motor and sensory functions.


Many spinal cord injury patients enter rehabilitation after they leave the hospital. Many rehabilitation programs combine physical therapies with skill-building activities and counseling, so that patients can begin to adapt to a new lifestyle and cope with the devastation of a spinal cord injury. During this time, a patient may begin to use a wheelchair, leg brace, or other adaptive devices as well.

The team of doctors and other professionals who work with the patient include a physiatrist (a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation), physical and occupational therapists, recreational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, social workers, psychologists, vocational counselors, nutritionists, and other specialists.

While there have been many advances in treatment options for spinal cord injury victims, the way the body heals remains a mystery. Some people may regain some movement, while others may not. With intensive therapy, patients may learn how to walk again. Others may begin to have feeling in legs or arms, but never heal enough to have control over moving them. Depending on the severity of the spinal cord injury, many patients use repetition and adaptive techniques to regain some of the abilities they lost.


The effects of a spinal cord injury can cause other medical complications as well:

  • Shortened life-expectancy
  • Problems breathing
  • Bladder and bowel issues
  • Pneumonia
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blood clots
  • Spasms
  • Pressure sores or ulcers
  • Pain
  • Reproductive and sexual dysfunction

More Spinal Cord Injury Information

Get a Free Legal Consultation – You May Have a Case

Recovering from a spinal cord injury can seem unbearable for victims and their families. The piles of medical bills may seem like they never end. The effects are physical, mental, and emotional…they change your entire life.

If you, or someone you love, suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident that wasn't your fault, contact Edgar Snyder & Associates now. You may have a case. We can't take away your injury, but we can do everything necessary to take care of the hassles and get you the money you deserve.

Call 412-394-1000, or fill out the form at the top right of this webpage for a no obligation, free legal consultation. Our phones answer 24/7. There's never a fee unless we get money for you, so contact us now.